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Dallas Cowboys Football Forecast

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Here's hoping for 100% DeMarco in the forecast.
Here's hoping for 100% DeMarco in the forecast.

And with a little assist from Chicago, the Dallas Cowboys are alone in second place in the NFC East. And just one game out of being tied for the second wild card slot.

Most importantly, the Cowboys are still legitimately alive in the hunt for a playoff spot. And things are looking a little shaky for the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles, which is also pleasing for some reason.

But nothing matters unless the Cowboys can win some more games. Halfway through the season, one problem has been putting wins together. Next Sunday, the Buffalo Bills come to town. It is time to take my weekly look at the different parts of the Cowboys and make a forecast of how likely the team is to have some trouble there. Needless to say, the win against Seattle has helped a lot and shown some of the good things this team has going for it.

Just a reminder, the lower the percentage, the better, since the prediction is based on the likelihood of there being problems.

My peerless prognostications after the jump.

Quarterback The rib may finally be healed. There is no question that Tony Romo looked comfortable in every sense of the word. A very good performance, and no turnovers. Not a lot else to say, and that is all good.

CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM:  20%  Last time:  60%

Running Back DeMarco Murray. Oh, wow. Seattle didn't come into the game with much to boast about, but a solid run defense was one thing - they are still tied for the second best yards/attempt at 3.4 - and it didn't slow DeMarco down. And as exciting as the 139 yards on the ground are, the 47 yards in pass receptions offer a glimpse of just how dangerous this rookie can be. The only issue left at this position is getting Felix Jones back, and then seeing if he can find holes like Murray does. If not, then he becomes a backup. And if he can . . . oh, wow.

CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM:  20%  Last time:  20%

Tight End/Fullback Jason Witten had an average Jason Witten game, which means he scored the touchdown to put the team up for good and kept the second touchdown drive alive with a diving/sliding catch of a short Romo throw. In other words, he was excellent to outstanding. Tony Fiammetta is generally believed to be a key part of DeMarco's success, which might bode well when Felix eventually returns. Now, if they just never have to throw to Martellus Bennett again . . .

CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM:  20%  Last time:  20%

Wide Receiver I wonder exactly how many minutes Tony Romo has had both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant healthy? Seven? Eight? Perhaps I exaggerate, but still, this is getting really depressing.  At least Laurent Robinson is turning out to be far better than anyone anticipated. Still, who do you trust as next up? Kevin Ogletree? Jesse Holley? When you add this to having Felix out, well, the skill positions are a might thin, which is why this number only comes down a little.

CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM:  40%  Last time:  50%

Offensive Line One of my favorite plays in the game was the second touchdown, when Fox put a clock on the time Tony had to wait for Robinson to come open along the back of the end zone. My next favorite play was just about any of the positive plays DeMarco had. Oh, and no sacks on Tony? This was a much better performance. And Seattle is not the worst defense in the league, ranking 16th overall in yards given up. The good news? Buffalo is 26th. Both are at the bottom of the league in sacks. This could be a very similar performance by the Cowboy O line - but I am cautious, because there are still moments when you see things like Phil Costa being moved backwards faster than he normally runs forward. This stays a little pessimistic until I see consistency, which has been an issue.

CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM:  50%  Last time:  70%

Defensive Line Better. The odd thing here is that the backups, particularly Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher, are actually outplaying the starters, if you can believe the numbers from Pro Football Focus. I am not sure how much faith I put in their rating system, although it is at least a basis for comparison. I do know that Dallas got gashed a lot late in the game. I don't know if they were playing soft or what, but I do know that they have to do a better job against the Buffalo Bills running game, which is led by Fred Jackson and comes in ranked 7thin the league. On the positive side, Hatcher did get himself a pick.

CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM:  40%  Last time:  60%

Linebacker As of right now, Sean Lee is the big question. If he comes back to play, then I feel a lot better, especially with Bruce Carter getting his first snaps and breaking up a pass in the Seahawks game (I remember thinking "Oh, he almost had a Lee on that one!") If not, then we still have Bradie James and Keith Brooking in the middle. And that is why the forecast is variable.

On the outside, Anthony Spencer had that spectacular running vault with a dismount he stuck right in front of the field goal kicker, which got a 9.8 (shafted by the Iranian and Chinese judges, or it would have been a 10). DeMarcus Ware got shut out - so he is about due.

CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM:  20% - 50%  Last time:  50%

Defensive Backs I am being cautious here as well with the injury to Mike Jenkins, but really, these guys had a much better game. Terence Newman and Gerald Sensabaugh both added interceptions, and Orlando Scandrick was the leading tackler for the team. But I have to caveat this with the fact that they were up against Tarvaris Jackson. Sorry, but the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick is a little more worrisome.

CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM:  40%  Last time:  50%

Special Teams David Buehler kicked three balls deep for touchbacks. He also had three returned, including one for 32 yards. And he had a tackle.

Meanwhile, Dan Bailey has his streak of consecutive field goals up to 19. And Chris Jones was a pleasant surprise, punting for a 43 yard average and putting two inside the 20, which I'll take gladly in Mat McBriar's absense.

CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM:  20%   Last time:  50%

Coaching Offensively there was only one big issue, at least in my mind, and that was on the second trip into the red zone. The first failure to score a touchdown was as likely on execution as play calling, so I don't hold it against Jason Garrett. But the second time? First and goal on the one and you don't get it in?

I think the play calling on that possession was a perfect illustration of the problem. Despite the recent emergence of DeMarco Murray and Tony Fiammetta in the running game, there still seems to be no faith in the team's ability to get a tough couple of yards. So JG relies on play action passes and running outside the tackles. Unfortunately, a defensive coordinator looking at Dallas down close on the goal line is probably figuring that the least likely play for Dallas to call is a run up the middle, so the opposing team is able to defend the passes and outside runs that JG keeps calling.

With the way DeMarco has been running, and with Montrae Holland, bless his Lumpy self, providing a little blocking up front, I cannot figure why they did not take at least two consecutive shots at running between the tackles. Coming out of an I formation, I think Murray has the vision to find enough of a crease to get one stinking yard. At least give it a try?

Defensively, I am worried by the lack of sacks and the touchdown drive given up late. The interceptions were a nice change, but did you notice what was going on just before the picks? (Hint: Seattle was driving.) I don't know if the injuries are affecting the team more than I would guess, or if teams are starting to figure Rob Ryan out. Buffalo is a lot more potent than Seattle from a statistical viewpoint, so he has his work cut out for him.

On the plus side for both of them, the team came back from the Eagle Embarrassment and put up a win, so at least that went right.

CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM:  30%   Last time:  50%

Jerry Jones Still there. Just never goes away. I find myself trying to ignore him lately.

CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM:  30%  Last time:  30%

String ‘em together. That is what the Cowboys need to do. You can look at the schedule and see that the next four games are the best chance they have to do so.

But this team has also shown that it cannot overlook anyone. They must play the games one at a time, and there is very little margin for error at this point. So, if you haven't tuned out after that load of overused clichés, join me:

GO COWBOYS!